Light box (and other) recommendations for Seasonal Affective Disorder?
September 6, 2011 11:01 PM   Subscribe

Looking for Seasonal Affective Disorder recommendations on light boxes etc.!

So I have SAD [Seasonal Affective Disorder], and while it's been pretty bad in Boston, it will probably be even worse in the UK, where I'm heading this fall. I currently have light box called a Carribbean Sun Box, which I'm on the fence about. It's the regular rather than the blue one. Sometimes I think it's somewhat helpful and sometimes I think it's bunk. Obviously this could be me not being responsive to light therapy rather than the box's fault! Nevertheless, I'm interested in switching it out for a different light box, if the consensus is that there are better boxes out there. I've heard good things from a friend about the Philips goLITE BLU; any comments from MeFites about that one, or any other blue light boxes? Or any other boxes, for that matter? Any advantage to getting a dawn simulator one rather than a regular one? Any boxes to avoid, in your experience? Bonus points for something easily transportable trans-Atlantically in luggage.

I know light boxes have been asked about before on Ask Metafilter, but it looks like it was several years ago, and I was thinking newer technology may have come out since then. Any more general recommendations for dealing with SAD would be super appreciated too! I additionally manage my SAD in the fall/winter by taking Wellbutrin daily (this seems to do the most for me), exercising, trying to spend some time outside, and spending time in bright rooms, etc., but I'd love to hear any other ideas. Thanks so much for the help!
posted by UniversityNomad to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
This is really the kind of thing you should buy in the UK upon arrival if at all possible. Some electronics tolerate variance in voltage and just need a plug adaptor (e.g. laptops, iPods) but lights and things with motors don't work without a transformer, and even then not so well.
posted by tractorfeed at 11:45 PM on September 6, 2011

Those little LED light boxes are silly. I'm not sure if they do anything at all, and I speak from experience - there's a Philips goLITE in a box in my basement.

What you want is big honking fluorescent lights. That's what real prescription light boxes use, and the good news is that you don't have to buy a big ugly box full of light tubes. Check out Full Spectrum Solutions. They have a variety of floor and desk lamps that look decent and have high-wattage bulbs suitable for light therapy.

I have two of their 70W BlueMax floor lamps above a chair and it almost feels like real sunlight. I also have one of their desk lamps just because they're great for lighting up a desk.

The bad news is that, as tractorfeed pointed out, the UK and US have different power systems. I'm not sure how easy it would be to get one of these lamps to work on UK power. Maybe someone can suggest a similar lamp that will work there?
posted by mmoncur at 12:00 AM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

What's helped my husband's SAD a lot has been Vitamin D - he takes a megadose (~30 kIU) once a week or so, which has worked better than a couple kIU daily.
posted by bookdragoness at 4:22 AM on September 7, 2011

I have a goLite, I've not really been diligent enough in using it to report on its efficacy, but FWIW, I live in the UK and ordered mine online from the US - it was much cheaper, and comes with a whole range of plug adaptors.
posted by penguin pie at 5:06 AM on September 7, 2011

You can look for light bulbs in the right color temperature range and with a good lumen count, and swap out the bulbs in your flat's ceiling fixtures instead of (or, I guess, in addition to) buying a bunch of new lamps and light boxes.

Copied from a previous answer:
Generally speaking, bulbs with lower color temperatures (2000K - 3000K) will look more yellow / orange and seem "warmer". Standard household "soft white" incandescent bulbs are around 2700K.
Bulbs with temperatures between 3000K and 4000K lend themselves to a more "naturally bright" feeling. It's the range that "sunlight bulbs", retail lighting, and most photographers' studio lighting falls into. Bulbs with higher color temperatures (above 5000K) will look more blue and seem "cold" or "sterile". Color temperature is not always listed on the package, but you can buy online from places like, and sort by a number of criteria including color temperature.
And higher number of lumens = greater light output. (As a point of reference, a 100-watt incandescent bulb gives off about 1400-1700 lumens.)
posted by D.Billy at 5:40 AM on September 7, 2011

I use a goLite, and it is life-altering.
posted by Jairus at 6:57 AM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have a HappyLite and it's pretty great.
posted by milk white peacock at 9:56 AM on September 7, 2011

I bought a used SunBox off eBay and it has been great.

Also, my physician told me that taking vitamin D pills isn't the same as taking the light into your eyes, as far as SAD goes. YMMV.
posted by 4ster at 1:14 PM on September 7, 2011

I have an older HappyLite, and love it. It's on a timer and switches on every morning at whatever hour I want.

When you sit near the light, closeness is a factor -- sitting 18 inches away means less time sitting in front of it -- sitting more than 3 feet away from it, say, isn't nearly as helpful.

All the other things you're doing are spot-on -- hooray for you!

You might try keeping track of when your symptoms first come on in the autumn/winter and when they dissipate--? Early last year I was able to tell myself "Only about X more weeks to go," rather than thinking "surely it will be like this until June."

And though I *personally* haven't been in the financial position to do this regularly: if you can at ALL schedule a holiday to somewhere warm and sunny when you're there, even five days in the sun can make a huuuuuge difference for you. Knowing your SAD 'schedule' can help here -- taking a vacation in, say, late October, might keep the symptoms at bay for another month or so.
posted by oldtimey at 11:23 PM on September 7, 2011

Another happy goLite customer.
posted by pickingoutathermos at 11:29 PM on September 7, 2011

Highly recommend the Nature Bright Suntouch Plus. Used it while living in a windowless efficiency apartment up North during the winter. It seemed to help somewhat! YMMV though....good luck!
posted by littleredwagon at 8:07 AM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

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